SNAPP TEAM:Evidence-based Conservation
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How can science be used to strengthen evidence-based policy and practice related to conservation efforts affecting human well-being?

Governments and organizations increasingly pursue conservation policies to achieve positive outcomes for both human well-being and natural ecosystems. To achieve this, it is critical that practitioners understand linkages between nature and people: which interventions have been effective at meeting social and environmental objectives? What evidence is available to support decisions? Unfortunately, evidence of these linkages is often either unclear or inadequate.


OUR APPROACH: This team brought together expertise from data synthesis, machine learning, computer science, international development, and social science to assess the current state of evidence and to enhance our understanding of how conservation affects human well-being.

Team Status: COMPLETED
Team Critical Challenge:

Mapping the Evidence

Following their Nature publication “Map the evidence,” the team developed the Evidence for Nature and People Data Portal. This portal features data and an evidence map, which highlights the number of unique articles that document the impact of a specific conservation intervention on a particular human well-being outcome. The portal allows users to filter, explore, and visualize data to identify information relevant to decision-making.



In collaboration with Conservation International and DataKind, the team created Colandr, an open-access machine learning application that accelerates scientific data filtering. Before the development of Colandr, it could take months to years to sift through studies and track down the evidence needed to make the right decision. This tool allows conservation practitioners and policymakers to quickly mine research for key insights and make more timely science-based decisions.



“Conservation strategies have a greater impact when they are informed by the latest scientific evidence, so we need to make this evidence easily accessible to decision-makers at all levels.”

– Yuta Masuda, Team Member

Key Products
How can socially equitable conservation interventions improve human well-being? A systematic review protocol

The team’s paper published in Environmental Evidence used existing knowledge to address the gap between community and incentive-based interventions and the effect that social equity has on human well-being outcomes.

International Impact Initiative (3ie): Land use change and forestry impacts

This report from the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) presents findings from the team’s evidence gap map that assesses the evidence available on the effects of land-use change and forestry programs on greenhouse gas emissions and human welfare outcomes.

Using machine learning to advance synthesis and use of conservation and environmental evidence

In this paper published in Conservation Biology, the team describes how machine learning optimizes processes of systematic evidence synthesis and improves its utility for evidence‐based conservation.

Strengthen causal models for better conservation outcomes for human well-being

By creating a list of criteria and evaluating over 1,000 peer-reviewed and grey literature articles, the team found that ~20% used any sort of causal models to guide their research with only 14 total articles fulfilling all of their criteria for credibility.

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Madeleine McKinnon
Vulcan (formerly Conservation International)
David Wilkie
Wildlife Conservation Society
Alison Bethel
University of Exeter
Andrew Pullin
University of Bangor
Bill Sutherland
University of Cambridge
Caitlin Augustin
DataKind and Kaplan
Daniel Miller
University of Illinois
David Gill
Conservation International
Dilys Roe
International Institute of Environmental and Development (IIED)
Eliot Levine
Mercy Corps
Emily Woodhouse
University College London
Louise Glew
World Wildlife Fund
Maggie Holland
University of Maryland
Ruth Garside
University of Exeter
Samantha Cheng
Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Arizona State University
Sofia Ahlroth
The World Bank
Supin Wongbusarakum
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Yuta Masuda
The Nature Conservancy
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